On Wednesday, Sakshi Malik ended India's medal drought at the Rio Olympics. She scripted history by being the first woman wrestler from India to bag a medal and the fourth woman athlete from India to climb the Olympic podium.
Beating Kyrgysztan's Aisuluu Tynybekova was a difficult task for the 23-year-old lass from Rohtak, Haryana. Although Malik lost to Russian Valeria Koblova in the quarterfinals, she bagged the bronze in the 58kg category through the repechage system of wrestling.
Repechage, a French word which means 'rescuing', is a format in which participants who have been eliminated in the early stages of the competition are given a fair chance to bounce back and make it to the podium. Every wrestler who has been defeated by the two eventual finalists during the knockouts, is allowed to participate. Malik got a new lease of life when her Russian conqueror Koblova reached the final, paving way for Malik to compete in the repechage round.
Basically, the system eliminates the possibility of a top competitor bowing out in the early round by losing against another leading player while allowing the loser a chance to compete for the bronze medal. The competitors who had lost to the finalists eventually fight it out for the bronze. There are two bronze medals up for grabs.
This is not the first time the repechage system has come to the rescue of Indian wrestlers. Yogeshwar Dutt and Sushil Kumar sealed the bronze at 2012 and 2008 Olympics respectively, through this format. The repechage system is also implemented in track and field events, martial arts, cycling, rowing, canoeing and kayaking.